New research delves into the costly impact of gender-based violence (GBV)

Wednesday, 11 August 2022, marked the launch of the 2022 research report ‘The Costly Impact of GBV: Private Sector Perceptions and Realities in South Africa’ at the JSE building in Sandton.

The University of Johannesburg, in partnership with Shared Value Africa Initiative , Mid Sweden University and supported by KPMG, released the report to explore the role of the private sector in the achievement of gender equality.

  • The report can be found here.

“Our research seeks to explore the human capital and healthcare costs of GBV and tracks the awareness, knowledge, and opinions about the prevalence of GBV and its prevention, among leadership and employees in private sector organisations in South Africa. Despite growing awareness around the issue, reliable and harmonised data on the understanding, prevalence, and real cost of gender-based violence in the private sector is still hard to find and an under-researched subject,” said lead researcher and UJ Strategic Communications Professor Corne Davis.

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  •   Strategic positioning and policy changes: GBV is not strategically addressed and should be positioned within company policies and structures of governance.
  • Reporting and multi-sectoral collaboration: Decisive action and a collaborative, multisectoral approach are required. Private sector should provide ongoing feedback on progress through Annual Integrated and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting. CSI spend should include GBV awareness and prevention programmes.
  • Education and awareness training: More should be done to proactively change patriarchal ideologies and male-centric culture through strategy, HR-led policies, education, awareness, and behavioural change programmes as well as dialogue to break the silence and remove the stigma, shame and fear associated with GBV in the workplace.
  • –    Healthcare costs of GBV: Considering the out-of-pocket medical costs for GBV victims (estimated at almost R10 billion), human capital loss (estimated at R26 billion) and judicial costs (estimated at R104 million), the research conservatively estimates that South Africa has lost more than R36 billion in 2019 alone, due to GBV.


Prof Davis developed the conversation guide for CEOs in the private sector as well as a survey instrument for employees in South Africa that was approved by the UJ ethics committee.

For the research report, Prof Davis said they followed a network approach that was established over the last nine years.

“It’s been a long time coming and it was fruitful because it enabled us to speak to leaders and most participants. What we found was that people were aware that GBV was a prevalent problem in society, not many were aware of the exact statistics involved because the topic had not been communicated on business platforms. Until we did this study, even now, GBV is not featured in corporate social responsibility indices, in governance reports and  employee wellbeing initiatives. Business did know it is a problem we need to address and there was a willingness to participate in addressing it.”

Incoming UJ Chancellor Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke on GBV being a shadow pandemic.

“GBV is a pandemic that was there before Covid, during Covid and it even increased during lockdown. It is not responded to comprehensively nor prosecuted in a convincing manner. All of us in society need to take action and to do our best to eliminate it. As the report shows us, there is something we can do as employers and colleagues. We need to ensure we have the policies that can be used to both  prevent and hold our employees accountable for their behaviour.”

Prof Davis concluded: “I believe that we can only make progress with GBV prevention and intervention if we follow a multi-level issue focused approach, with all stakeholders included.

It is our responsibility as social scientists to drive multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary research so that GBV features in mainstream social science journals.

Universities need to step up to the task of addressing GBV far more progressively since we have access to vast numbers of stakeholders who we can educate and inform.”




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